What is it?

Lisa: Dad, what’s a Muppet?

Homer: Well, it’s not quite a mop, it’s not quite a puppet, but man…

[laughs hysterically]

Homer: So to answer your question, I don’t know.

I imagine conversations similar to this happen all the time in NHL arenas when a kid asks their parent what a Wild is when Minnesota comes into town.

Anyway, tonight’s game features the top 2 teams in the Western Conference to date. Yes folks, we live in a world where the Minnesota Wild sit atop the NHL. Nobody really knows how, but the Wild have amassed 43 points and lead the Blackhawks by 3 in the soon to be defunct Western Conference.

Indeed, the Wild have been the feel good story of the NHL this year. Tuesday night,  they lost for the first time in 7 games to the Winnipeg Jets. However, the game was widely hailed as one of the funnest matches yet this season and was a great preview of what realignment will look like.

The Wild have have been faced with injuries everywhere in the lineup but have largely overcome these setbacks and are becoming a stronger team for it. Niklas Backstrom returns to action tonight for Minnesota. Backstrom has been strong this season and has an 11-6-2 record with a 2.08 GAA and a .932 SV% to show for it.

Nobody really jumps at offensively on this team after Dany Heatly and Devin Setoguchi (who won’t play). Kyle Brodziak leads the team in goals (10) and is the only player on the team in double digits. Heatly is always a threat and Mikko Koivu is still a very dangerous setup man (20 assists). Defenseman should keep their heads up tonight – especially when Cal Clutterbuck is bearing down on the forecheck. I think I can already hear Niklas Hjalmarsson’s teeth chattering.

The thing that makes the Wild’s success so perplexing is the state of their defense. On paper, this group looks horrible. Clayton Stoner? Greg Zanon? Yet, these are the defenseman who patrol the blue line for the best team in hockey. Their top offensive blue-liner Marek Zidlicky has been out with an injury, but the scotch- taped defense keeps rolling right along. How long the Wild can continue to win with this defensive corps remains to be seen.

A few changes tonight for the Blackhawks. Bryan Bickell will be reinserted into the lineup as a result of Ben Smith being sent back to Rockford. Bickell will dress for the first time in 6 games. John Scott returns to the blue line after sitting the last 6 games. Sami Lepisto (who did commit multiple turnovers against the Sharks) will go back to the press box with Sean O’Donnell.

Ray Emery again starts for the Hawks. Razor kept the Hawks in the game the first two periods against the Sharks when the rest of the Hawks couldn’t be bothered to get interested. It’s much deserved start for him and he seems to be making the most of his chance.

Right now, it appears the Johnny Toews (looking for his 300th point) and Marcus Kruger lines will remain the same while Bickell will skate with Dave Bolland and former Wild Andrew Brunette and the 3rd line. Brunette will play his first game in Minnesota since signing with the Blackhawks. He scored 119 goals as a member of the Wild and is 2nd all-time in scoring for that franchise behind Marian Gaborik.

The Hawks are coming off a big come from behind victory against the Sharks and the Wild are coming off an emotional loss to the Jets. A Blackhawk victory would bring them just 1 point behind Minnesota in the Western Conference, so the game tonight has a lot of meaning for both teams.

Nationally televised game tonight (VERSUS). Its a 6:30 start – because the world revolves around the bastards on the Eastern Seaboard.

We will keep you updated if the lineups change at all.

Go Hawks.